SAN CARLOS, Calif. (KRON) — A man accused of beheading his ex-girlfriend with a sword in San Carlos requested a psychiatric evaluation and declined to enter a plea during his first court appearance in Redwood City Monday afternoon.
Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta, 33, is charged with murdering Karina Castro, the mother of his one-year-old daughter. Neighbors told KRON4 that they witnessed the gruesome aftermath of last week’s homicide and described it as a “beheading.”
Castro, 27, was attacked outside her apartment on Laurel Street at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, according to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Her ex-boyfriend briefly fled before he returned to the crime scene and was arrested.
Landaeta did not speak during Monday’s court appearance. He kept his head down, staring at the floor. His defense attorney told the judge that his client needs a psychiatric evaluation before he makes a plea. District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe agreed with the defense’s request.
“What exactly is his mental state? It is better to get this taken care of now, to determine whether he is competent to stand trial, than to do it in two years when we are about ready to start a trial,” Wagstaffe told reporters outside the courthouse.
The judge suspended criminal proceedings until a psychiatrist evaluates Landaeta’s mental state. The defense’s request suggests that his attorney may argue that Landaeta is incompetent to stand trial, and he may eventually plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Castro’s father, Martin Castro, said Landaeta deserves to be convicted of murder and sentenced to death. “I don’t feel he should continue breathing. I think the death penalty would be perfect for him,” he said.
Martin Castro told KRON4 that Landaeta gave him a bad feeling since the day he met him. “I didn’t like him from day one. He’s been nothing but trouble since the day he came into her life. When she got pregnant by him, my heart dropped,” he said.
Last week, the father cried as he watched firefighters wash blood stains off of the pavement where his daughter died. “I miss her already. My heart is empty without her. She was my best friend,” he said.
Castro is survived by her two young daughters, ages one and seven. City leaders organized a donation fund to help Castro’s children after losing their primary caregiver. The girls lost their mother to “horrific and senseless act of violence,” the San Carlos City Council and mayor wrote.
The girls’ grandparents are currently fighting to regain custody of the children from county officials.
This breaking news story will be updated.